I was going to start this article off with, "Living in Europe, especially as an au pair, doesn’t mean traveling abroad every weekend, popping off to Paris or Berlin on a train or taking a cheap flight to London on a whim."
However, I am currently sat on an ICE International train from Amsterdam to Düsseldorf that cost me €55 return, to visit a friend I ‘met’ on Instagram. So I guess I can’t say that now!
Now, back to the top at hand, being an au pair and living in the Netherlands.
I have lived abroad a few times throughout Europe with Working Holiday Visa’s but I have always wanted to be an au pair, however it just never worked out timing wise. Until now.
Nearing 30, as a single woman having just moved back to my home country, Australia, from a year in Sweden and having finished some studies in early childhood education. I decided it was now or never (literally, as there are only a few countries that offer au pair programs to people aged 30).
As a 29 year old Australian, I checked out what specific countries offer to people of my age and nationality, and having a good friend who was an au pair in the Netherlands after university, I basically just decided... boom, I shall be living in the Netherlands!
Although I chose to live and work in Amsterdam, there are plenty of other great cities in the Netherlands, like Groningen in the north of the country.
If you're not sold though on living in the Netherlands, consider working as an au pair in Paris, France. Living abroad in the romance capital of the world is a dream for many and working as an au pair just might be your ticket in.
I didn’t research a whole lot (surprise, the Netherlands gets very hot over the summer and doesn’t always snow in the winter!), but taking a chance and going for it could not have worked out better, and I really encourage everyone considering it, to just go for it!
To be honest, it is a relatively simple process to apply to become an au pair in the Netherlands. However, being an au pair in the Netherlands is a little different to being an au pair in a lot of other countries as the visa requirements is quite strict.
2 Big Steps to Becoming an Au Pair in the Netherlands
- You first need to find a host family (I suggest making a profile on a free site like AupairWorld).
- You must then apply for your visa via a certified au pair migration agency (which your host family will pay for), who will handle your entire case from start to finish.
To be honest, for me, the 2nd step was actually great. I didn’t need to submit any applications myself (I am a bit of a nervous stress head when it comes to these things), I just needed to supply all of my paperwork to my agency who made the application on my behalf and ensured my host family and I had a sound working contract. It was really great putting this process into the hands of a profession and I imagine many other au pairs and host families feel the same.
Another positive of the system in The Netherlands is the fact that your agency continuously check in on you and your host family to make sure that everything is running smoothly during your year as an au pair. If you unfortunately have a negative experience, it's nice knowing someone is there to support you.
The only costs associated with my application process were to pay for my birth certificate to be apostilled. This is for the application and in order to be registered with my local municipality once living in the Netherlands. I also paid for my own flight to the Netherlands, although I've heard some families will provide this as part of your compensation package.
General Requirements of the Dutch Au Pair Visa:
- You are aged 18 - 30.
- You are not married, or have any children of your own.
- You are not related in any way to the family you are going to be working for.
- You have not had a permit/visa in the Netherlands before.
- You will live with and be registered with your host family in their municipality.
- You are applying with a recognized au pair agency.
- You have a daily/weekly routine of maximum 30 hours per week, minimum 2 days off per week, and do not perform any duties outside this routine.
Like I said, it is a bit of a strict visa process, but it is really beneficial to the au pair, and was made this strict in recent years to ensure that no au pairs are taken advantage of, which I think is great as I have heard some horror stories of au pairs in other countries.
Expectations & Salary
Being an au pair, as you probably already know, includes looking after kids (for example; getting them ready for and taking them to school, having lunch with them, cooking dinner for the family, and light housework).
In exchange, you get some ‘pocket money’, free board and meals at home with the family.
This isn't a job you sign up for if you're looking to make a large salary but it is an incredible job for someone looking to experience life abroad without having to pay for the trip.
In the Netherlands, your family can also provide you with some nice additional extras like a Museum Kaart (free visits to all the museums in the country for an entire year!), supplements for your OV chip kaart (like free weekend travel across the entire country via train!), the list goes on (these just happen to be my favourite options and what my family provided me with).
Being an au pair in the Netherlands, unlike other countries, also means you won’t be driving. You will be cycling to school or play dates with the kids, or taking them in a bakfiets (aka, the big bike with the bucket in front for the kids to sit in). If you don't feel comfortable on a bike now, I suggest getting some practice in before moving to the Netherlands, as it's definitely a huge part of Dutch culture. It's not only the cultural way to get around but you'll also see loads of positive effects from cycling everywhere.
There are a few tricky things to navigate when living in the Netherlands, but thankfully having a host family who act like a sponsor to you and your visa, the process to become registered, get your permit card, a bank account, and tax number are not too difficult - they just take a long time!
That being said, be prepared to not have a bank account for while (look into a travel account from home, or see if your host family has a second account and debit card they can let you use for a while), and consider not travelling anywhere on your weekends until you have your permit card (to avoid any issues at borders). These small hassles might feel like dealbreakers but I insure this, it's better you have this information now, instead of getting any surprises later. Plus, it's really not too tough to wait out these things, especially since there's so much to see and do within the Netherlands.
Pros & Cons to Life as an Au Pair in the Netherlands
While I’m listing both pro’s and con’s, I have to say, the pro’s definitely outweigh the con’s! I have absolutely loved living here, and plan to stay as long as I can.
Au Pair Netherlands Pros:
- The Dutch people! They are super friendly and fun (even if they think you are crazy for choosing their tiny country to live in instead of your ‘exotic and exciting’ home country!)
- It is a very international country and full of expats, especially in the larger cities or university cities like Amsterdam, Den Haag, Leiden, Rotterdam and Utrecht.
- Unlike other European countries, your au pair agency submits your visa application for you, and ensures you and your host family are abiding by all the rules of the au pair agreement.
- Mandatory health insurance (and a government subsidy that pays basically the entire monthly fee).
- Living incredibly close to many mainland Europe countries with cheap(ish) train, bus and plane travel.
Au Pair Netherlands Cons:
- Eating and drinking out is VERY expensive.
- Public transport is pretty expensive.
- Dutch is quite a tricky language (don’t get me started on the Dutch G sound).
- You have no other working rights (unless you are an EU citizen), and the pay/pocket money is quite low.
- Everyone speaks great English (so you won’t practice your Dutch), and the expat community is huge (so you will probably not have many Dutch friends!).
My major tip and final piece of advice for being an au pair in the Netherlands and enjoying the au pair experience is to take advantage of the numerous social groups, apps and meet up opportunities.
Get out there and join everything, message that person on Instagram you’ve been chatting to for years but never lived near to until now, swipe right on that cute Dutch boy, join a free walking tour - the list goes on!
I have met some of the most amazing people and life long connections from just giving it a go and meeting up with people. I think that is what has made my time here so incredibly enjoyable, and makes me never want to leave!
Sometimes you just have to take that leap and step outside your comfort zone, and doing it as an au pair gives you a little safety net of living with a loving family and having a job set up before you even arrive!
If you have any other questions about being an au pair, living in the Netherlands or travelling Europe - feel free to get in touch.